Sunday, May 24, 2009

Birthday Thanks!

Yesterday I was knitting on my Lifetime Blanket. As I finished a little square, I found myself smoothing and "petting" the square to make it fit in with the rest. Or to make it welcome. I am not too sure. But how many times had I seen my grandmother do the same thing? I remembered that I often saw her do this, and I guess it ingrained in my head. I guess it is a learned behavior. Or maybe it is something that a lot of people do unconsciously. I guess this is something to watch for. I know that people love to touch yarn. But this is more of a loving gesture to a finished piece.

As I lay in bed last night I thought about this. I thought of my grandmothers, my great-grandmothers, my grandfather, and the fading memory of my great-grandfather. I had unraveled a sweater to re-purpose the yarn, and I thought of things I had learned from them.

So today I will share a portion of a letter I mailed and emailed to everyone in my family after the death of the last grandmother. I will not explain their names. It is too complicated. My brothers asked me to write an obituary, but I waited until after the memorial service and mailed this to everyone instead. I have only taken a portion to share with you. It is something we can all share together.

As explanation of the last paragraph, my grandmother worked on our fish farm, she raised Tennessee walking horses when she first moved there, she raised parakeets and showed them in bird shows around the country, she had her own lapidary equipment and she made jewelry, she had a tropical fish business in later life in my great-grandmother's living room, and she did all these things so she could make enough money that we could go on trips in the summer and to buy fabric to make everyone's clothes for school. And to buy yarn to knit or crochet. When she was in her early nineties, she crocheted tops on kitchen towels for a friend's church to sell at bazaars. We are not talking about a few-we are talking production work. One of my friend's lately asked me if I still had some of my "Granny Towels". I still have some.

Each of us would look at our past life through the filter of our personal memories and would see different things. Certainly I did not learn to weave, spin, or quilt from Grandma Ease. The things I did learn from her, Big Mama, Darlin, and Julie will gather into the quilt or weaving or sweater I make. I began at age five to learn embroidery from Big Mama. Rather than look at the skills I have now, what did I learn from these women?
Whenever I want to create and make something so special even I am amazed at how gorgeous this is, there is a certain hesitation as “how do I begin to do this?”
So first I have to make a commitment. This leads to trust that I can create and finish something that will be beautiful. I then set a goal, and begin the planning phase of the project. This is the hard part. It is necessary to keep it simple, have a time frame, balance time and accuracy to keep it efficient, prioritize the plan, and get started. This leads to self-discipline. By using quality materials, the right tools, and creating quality work, I build self-esteem. And by being responsible for my own choices and for my own work, I become self-confident. These are all integral parts of who I am inside, my values that are established along the way of my life.
But there are people oriented skills that are learned also. Cooperation, perseverance, and communication play important parts in this formula. Without these skills, one must live in a cave and be a hermit. Life is a testing ground for these values, and once you know what kind of person you want to be, add integrity. It is often thought that all good people want to live with integrity. But this is challenged every day by people and situations. One may be tempted to compromise integrity to preserve harmony. But if integrity itself has a higher reward - being at peace with yourself- is it worth it? In your life you must know who you are, and you must communicate this through words and actions.
And what I learned mostly from Darlin, my father’s grandmother, is “Enjoy Life and Celebrate Life Every Day”. Celebrate your accomplishments and feel proud of yourself. Quality work should always be honored, and this will motivate you to keep doing the right things. Life is too short not to be happy and have fun!
So with these four women as role models, remember that their lives were not
“glamorous” or “romantic” in any way. They were women who lived through hard times, through prejudice, through struggles, through adversities that we will never experience. They taught me other things to sustain me today- to simplify my life and live with less. I have to admit I love my yarns, my wool, and my yardage, but I have pared my life to a simple statement of “me”.
The one thing that you have learned from Grandma Ease over the years is “Do
All Things With Love”. She lived her whole life giving out love. Every bucket of minnows she carried, every bird she owned, every rock she used for jewelry, every garment she sewed, every seed she planted in her gardens, every sweater she made, every tropical fish she sold, every towel she crocheted, everything she did was with Love.
So in honor of all our grandmothers, live good lives filled with love, honor, and integrity. Each of you is unique and valuable in this world. Lock in the good times, and celebrate Life.

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